-M- is the alias of French pop enigma Mathieu Chédid, an uncommonly idiosyncratic and far-ranging talent best known to a worldwide audience for his contributions to the animated cult favorite Les Triplettes de Belleville. Born December 21, 1971, in Boulogne-Billancourt, Chédid was the son of French pop icon Louis Chédid (on whose 1978 hit "T'a Beau Pas Être Beau" the six-year-old made his recorded debut) and the grandson of renowned poet and novelist Andrée Chédid. As a teen Chédid collaborated with fellow pop scions Pierre Souchon and Julien Voulzy (children of the legendary songwriting duo Alain Souchon and Laurent Voulzy) in a series of short-lived groups like Les Bébés Fous and Les Poissons Rouges. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, he also emerged as an in-demand session player, contributing to recordings headlined by Philippe Chatel, NTM, and Billy Ze Kick.
Upon completing his debut solo LP, 1997's Le Baptême, Chédid adopted the alias "-M-," abbreviating his first name while also playing on the pronunciation of "aime," the French word for "love." Developing a vividly theatrical stage show complementing his playful melodies and operatic vocals, -M- completed his transformation with both a guitar and a coiffure in the shape of his one-letter persona. After winning the prestigious Prix Félix Leclerc for his songwriting prowess, -M- began work on his 1999 follow-up, Je Dis Aime. Another commercial and critical success, it set the stage for a sold-out tour and Victoires de la Musique awards in the categories of Best Male Singer and Best Concert.
While taking an extended break from recording to raise his first child, -M- issued a 2001 live LP, Le Tour de -M-. Its 2003 follow-up Labo -M- was a collection of instrumentals, demos, and outtakes, although his imaginative title theme for Sylvain Chaumet's acclaimed feature Les Triplettes des Belleville was itself highly regarded as well. Finally, at year's end -M- resurfaced with a new studio effort, Qui de Nous Deux?, a record that eschewed the flamboyance of his previous music in favor of a more personal and mature sensibility (even while the title hinted at the contrast between -M- and Chédid himself). Qui de Nous Deux? became a major hit, spending months in the charts during 2003 and 2004. His subsequent world tour yielded a double live release, En Tête à Tête, issued in late 2005.
Chédid spent much of the next few years focusing on live performance and collaborations, including recordings with his father Louis, the Malian musicians Amadou & Mariam, and Vanessa Paradis (the latter for her hit album Divinidylle, which he helped produce and write). In 2009, -M- released his fourth studio album Mister Mystère, a clear departure in style and intent. No longer flamboyant and colorful, the album still presented a very diverse musical palette. No surprise that it was heavily collaborational, featuring contributions from Brigitte Fontaine as well as most of Chédid's close family. The album hit number one in France, just like its predecessor, and spent many months on the country's chart. He toured Europe during much of late 2009.
Chédid began preparations for his fifth studio LP, Îl, releasing it in 2012 and earning strong critical praise for the album and its lead single "Mojo." During 2015, Chédid participated in a true family affair, touring and recording with his siblings and his father on a project titled Louis, Matthieu, Joseph and Anna Chédid (the proceedings were filmed by his sister Émilie). His next work, Lamomali, was also a collaboration, this time with a host of Malian musicians, led by Toumani Diabaté and his son Sidiki. The project's self-titled album appeared in 2017. ~ Jason Ankeny